The day was pretty and soft, so Steve and I slipped away to a late, long breakfast in our favorite little cafe in Bend. We carried steaming mugs of coffee to a table by a window just as snow started falling softly as if the ghost of Irving Berlin had given the cue. It was an idyllic morning and I closed my eyes and breathed in deeply, silently congratulating myself on having staged the perfect getaway: trouble and pain and ALS seemed far away in that moment.
Just then we noticed several customers and workers gathered around a television, intently focused on CNN and the story that was unfolding.
18 Children Dead in School Shooting.
My stomach fell hard and I moved closer to the TV to hear the details, which were still spotty and unreliable. 26 dead. The shooter had ties to the school. A whole class full of kindergartners. I returned to our table just as our food arrived and updated Steve on the story. We closed our eyes to pray, but all Steve could get out was, “Oh, Jesus, please be with those families…” The Christmas lights still twinkled around the window and Let it Snow drifted through the restaurant speakers drowning out the television, but tears and fear and pain had pushed into our beautiful breakfast.
Within moments of this unspeakable tragedy, Facebook became a feeding frenzy of outrage and disbelief and How in the World and Why cant we Stop it? Half said, Control the guns! while the other half said More guns! – each side feeling that anyone with a brain in their heads would see this situation as clear evidence that we need more or less. We are always looking for a surefire way to push the monsters outside our borders.
I don’t know. The problem feels older and deeper to me than our laws. This feels as old as time and as deep as Cain and Abel. Sin prowls our fallen planet and it tears ugly gashes across innocent lives.
In our inability to defeat sin permanently, our only recourse is to manage it as best we can temporarily. We try to set up fences to contain its damage, but evil is both aggressive and stealthy and it often finds a way to wiggle out of whatever walls we’ve built. This may not be popular, but I also don’t think the Ten Commandments or prayer in schools is the fortress we’re hoping for. I’m not implying that laws don’t help, but I don’t think they’re ultimately going to be the insulation for which we’re so desperate. Evil found a place to live in Eden; it will surely find vulnerable hearts inside any community or government that exists beneath the sway of sin.
The longer I live and the more days like this one I mark off the calendar, the more convinced I become of this one thing: In this world, we will have trouble. No matter how we’d love to pray, plead or legislate our way out of it. We live in the here-and-now, where hearts and bodies break. But God…comes to our hurting, holds us near, bottle our tears and reminds us that there is so much more to come.
So we send fierce love and fervent prayers for those who are even now faced with Christmas gifts that will go unopened and future dreams that will never be. We weep for parents we have never met over the searing loss of littles we will never know this side of eternity. But suffering is a universal language and if we let it, it will tether us to hope and to Love and to the One who defeated death with a vengeance. While we may not be able to eliminate evil, we can face it with faith, knowing that He is still – always – able to work even the deepest, darkest day together for His glory and our good. I don’t know how, I only know that He does. He always does.
Oh, Jesus. Emmanuel. Come to the mess we have made in the world You created and bring the comfort that only You can.
We really need You.